Sometimes, even for grumpy middle-aged metal fans, wishes can come true. So when it was announced in 2017 that former Helloween members Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen were to join the current incarnation of the band there was much, much rejoicing. The Pumpkins United (Nuclear Blast) single which followed swiftly dispelled any initial concerns about musical overcrowding, the band now consisting of seven members including three vocalists plus Hansen adding a third guitar, and the path to Helloween (Nuclear Blast) was clear.
A conceptualized science fiction album might not have been at the top of every Helloween fan’s wish list but this is where they’ve gone so just sit back and enjoy the sound of a band clearly having the time of their lives. Opening with a spidery ‘South of Heaven’ style Slayer intro, ‘Out For the Glory’ quickly settles into familiar fast-paced power metal territory with Kiske taking the lead and Hansen adding his particular vocal stamp along the way.
‘Fear of the Fallen’ is where things really get going and when Kiske and his successor Andi Deris let loose it sends chills down the spine. Hansen gets his share of vocal input on the upbeat and feel-good ‘Best Time’ while ‘Mass Pollution’ features another ridiculously infectious chorus and some serious drumming from sticksman Dani Löble.
‘Angels’ sees Kiske and Deris duetting again, their performances admittedly better than the song, which although isn’t poor by any standards, is one of the least memorable tracks on the album.’Rise Without Chains’ briefly and unashamedly harks back to ‘Eagle Fly Free’ while the self-referencing unity of ‘Indestructible’ combines old-school riffs with a classic Helloween chorus.
Although largely designed to cause whiplash, ‘Robot King’ still finds the time to take a neoclassical pit stop along the way while bassist Markus Grosskopf and guitarist Sascha Gerstner show what they’re made of yet again on the barnstorming ‘Cyanide’. ‘Down in the Dumps’ thunders insistently along with another air of welcome familiarity before short instrumental ‘Orbit’ leads onto the album’s centrepiece, ‘Skyfall’. Want a twelve-minute epic about aliens influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden, Queen, and David Bowie? Then this is your lucky day. The climactic fade-out might deny the album one final galactic explosion of sci-fi metal sexiness but that’s just a minor quibble really.
Any long-term battle between expectation and reality usually ends in some form of disappointment but this simply isn’t the case here. Deris and Kiske are breathtakingly good and the chemistry between Hansen and former axe partner Michael Weikath feels like it’s never even been interrupted. From the artwork which encompasses the different eras to the delicate balancing act between each individual musician to the quality of the songs themselves, Helloween is an unequivocal triumph.
Buy the album here: https://nblast.de/HELLOWEEN-Helloween